2021 – Lessons learned from last year
Five facts to bear in mind as we start the New Year.
We are all planning for a better year. For a more interesting and innovative year. I have five facts about 2021 that should guide you as you try to plan for the year.
Fact 1: Retailers must explore ways to market to their customers based on a whole lot of changes that happened in 2020
In the past, we had predictable patterns of behavior in our customer bases. We had the customer group who always shopped in the store. The group that mainly ordered online. The group that needed a discount in order to buy. We had models and segments and lists of people who could be counted on to do X, Y and Z every time.
Then 2020 mixed everything up, put it into the blender and hit “purée.”
The people who used to go to the store? They’re staying home and shopping online. Will they stay there? Now we have people who were never our customers but are our customers now. Will we keep them?
How will marketers determine what types of experiences their customers will bring? My shopping pattern has changed. Now marketers have to learn how to predict behavioral changes like this.
Fact 2: All of our data is in flux
These behavioral changes are upsetting the data apple cart. Also, the world will be going through a rolling vaccination schedule in which some segments of the community can go wherever they want because they got the shot and certain others can’t. That upheaval means the old behavior models will no longer be accurate.
Marketers used to update their models regularly. “Regularly” might mean every few quarters. Now that pace of change has accelerated.
That’s why nobody can predict what will happen in 2021 in a single model or help you understand what to look for.
Fact 3: We will “unlearn” what we know
To quote Yoda, it will be the year of unlearning what we have learned. This means you have to go back and look at every strategy you ever had and adapt it to the new customer dynamic.
Your welcome email – does it promote your mobile app? Does your mobile app have new functions or reflect any new policies from 2020?
Look at your automations. Are the timings right? My car dealer still sends me emails every 90 days telling me to bring my car in for an oil change. But I’ve put maybe 1,000 miles on the car since February. So I ignore those emails, and that’s a lost opportunity for my dealer.
Review your transactional messages. If you operate both ecommerce and stores, do your emails mention curbside or in-store pickup? Have you extended or updated your return policies to adapt to 2020 changes? All of that information needs to be in your transactional messages.
What about your customer segments? You surely need to update them. That might require new data in your ESP if you’re replicating data out of your CRM. And how do you think about segments for 2021?
Fact 4: We need new models and data
If you don’t have extensive models that are run out of your CRM and pushed to your ESP regularly, you need to ask for new data. And you need to find a way not just to ask for the data you need but also come up with the best way to get that data.
Progressive profiling is not done as often as it should be. When done right, it can yield great results. Yes, it’s self-supplied information and has an expiration date and bias. That’s because the data someone gives you is often what they want you to think about them, not who they truly are, as their behavior shows.
So, you pair it with behavior signals to see if the information your customers gave you is valid.
Fact 5: We need to help each other learn
As upsetting as this pandemic era has been, and as much as we have struggled to chart the right course through it, this time reminds me of the early days of email marketing.
What we will see now is a rebirth of the email industry – unlearning what no longer applies and relearning, from our own experiences and the lessons from our peers, what will work in the new environment.
The foundation doesn’t change. Email is still the strongest digital channel. Along with the foundational elements – the welcome, promotion, transactional, attrition, and automation – those are the core elements that you must get right. How you execute each one of those – that’s what you must change and update.